What My Father Says About Brooklyn

It’s driven into his body, the brutal cement
of sidewalk, the way sunlight flicks

from the wings of cars onto the pebbled
street. Words stumble away as he raises

his hand against me, cracked stoop
in the rope of his arms, cry of newsboy

in cords of his throat. Each day before the sun
breaks red, he dresses in silence.

Each day he drives along dark highways,
back to his own beginnings, to the smell

of gasoline and hunger. Above,
the el rumbles, syllables breaking

on the tar roof where he once stood
clutching a curl of paper, a diploma—

an end? a beginning?—how could he know
the difference? These walls of brick

become the layered spine
of his life. His lips move

with laundry hung from a window,
each sleeve flapping, empty,

missing human arms. I want
to wade into the ocean of my father,

to hear seagulls call. Instead he contains
boards nailed around vacant lots,

soot on windowsills, thin bodies
of weeds that edge through the cracks.